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Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

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Contrary to the opinion of those who would defer all learning
till the age of seven when the boy is able to understand what is
taught, and would limit the first education to a training of
character, Quintilian believes that a beginning should be made
as early as possible, the more so because " the elements of learning
depend on the memory alone, which not only exists in children,
but is at that time of life even most tenacious." " Yet," he goes
on to say, " I am not so unacquainted with differences of age,
as to think that we should urge those of tender years severely,
or exact a full complement of work from them."* Instruction,
Quintilian sees quite well, must be adapted to the age of the pupil
throughout. The fact that a subject cannot be completely learned
is no reason for not teaching it at all: the young mind which
cannot take in all that is presented to it can at least take in part
and be further on the way to a comprehension of the whole. In
the same spirit, he makes allowance for differences of talents.
"It is generally, and not without reason, regarded as an ex-
cellent quality in a master to observe accurately differences
of ability in those whom he has undertaken to instruct, and
to ascertain in what direction the nature of each particularly
inclines him; for there is in talent an incredible variety, and
the forms of mind are not less varied than those of bodies."f
The wise teacher will recognize these peculiarities of talent
and make choice of studies to suit them, even accommodating
his instruction to feeble intellects and only training them in the
direction to which -nature invites them. In the case of the more
gifted, who give promise of oratorical eminence, the absence of
inclination or the appearance of inferior ability in some subjects
will call for a special effort on the part of the teacher to ensure an
all-round development. It is the business of the teacher, without
actually opposing nature, to supplement it and make good its

This deliberate consideration of the mental limitations due
to age and individuality strikes a new note in education. The
Greeks probably recognized such differences in the practice of
their schools, but it would not have occurred to them that there
was any need to formulate specific precepts regarding such
things. It was almost a matter of course to them that there
should be different instruction for different ages, and individuality
* I, I, 19, 20.           f n,viii, i.